Evening with "After Year Zero" exhibition
View of the exhibition "After Year Zero", photo by Bartosz Stawiarski
Join select authors, artists, and the editors of the recently released publication, “After Year Zero: Geographies of Collaboration,” co-published by the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw and the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, in discussion on the on-going relationship between postcolonial Africa and the West.
For the participants of the “After Year Zero” project, postcolonial Africa, and its continuous and evolving identity, can be understood via the close examination and revision of artistic and cultural journals. The permutations and effects of the decades-long cross-pollination of cultural experimentation and activism can be seen from French journals (e.g. Présence Africaine) of the 1930s and 1940s—featuring the voice of the African diasporas in Paris, and the associated Négritude movement—through to South African journals (e.g. Frank Talk), of 1980s and 1990s —featuring the hybridization of street, literary and music cultures.
Our guests will focus discussion on journals including, but not limited to, “Souffle” and “Lotus.” “Souffle,” edited in Morocco at the beginning of the 1960s in French and Arabic, combined the search for new expressions of Islamic art with a strong political commitment to the Palestinian cause, whereas “Lotus”, edited in Cairo from the beginning of the 1950s, was devoted to literature as well as to the development of an Afro-Asian solidarity.
Participants of the discussion include: Kodwo Eshun (The Otolith Group), an artist and Afro-futurism specialist; Denis Ekpo, Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, and author of numerous texts on the subject of Post-African art; Nida Ghouse, critic and curator of Mumbai Art Room; Clare Davies, curator at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; and Jihan El-Tahri, Egyptian journalist and award-winning film maker.
Four short presentations will be followed by a discussion conducted by Katarzyna Bojarska with the editors of the book and the curators of the exhibition, Annett Busch and Anselm Franke.
This discussion is to be held in English.
Anselm Franke, Annett Busch
Denis Ekpo - Passions of Blackness and Imperatives of a Post-African Imagination: Re-reading Black Orpheus and Black Images
Black Orpheus and Black Images were two of the pioneer journals that mobilized the theme of Blackness/Africanity as the defining expression of a nascent Pan-African/anti-colonial consciousness. While the first celebrated Négritude through the burgeoning literary, visual and performing arts of Africa and the black world, the second was focused on reiterating and drawing activist attention to, the endless struggles and few triumphs of Blackness in the Americas. Both however shared an uncommon obsession with promoting a Pan-African racial/cultural renaissance. Their passions of Blackness however had to contend with a globalizing modernity that operates mostly beyond emotions of racial/anti-colonial resentment, historical self-pity and Afrophiliac cultural nostalgia. In his presentation Denis Ekpo examines the post-blackness trends that arose at the twilight of Négritude. Post-Africanism, perhaps the most radical of these, proposes the complete setting aside of all forms of Negro-philia and the complex-free return to the “Universal” from which Negritude/black consciousness had unhelpfully and masochistically tried to separate black peoples and cultures all over the world.
Clare Davies: Souffles/Anfas—Geographies of Solidarity
Artists affiliated with Souffles/Anfas (1966–1972), a literary journal founded in Morocco, identified themselves as "Third World" and "Arab" artists. In her presentation Clare Davies examines the logic of art-making situated at this junction, and traces its relevance within the framework of the General Union of Arab Plastic Artists established in 1971.
Nida Ghouse: Lotus Notes
Soon after Youssef El Sebai was murdered in Cyprus, the Permanent Bureau of the Afro-Asian Writers Association in Cairo disbanded, and a poet from Pakistan by the name of Faiz Ahmed Faiz arrived in Beirut to take over the chief editorship of Lotus. Both the man and the magazine had moved from different places to be granted home and hospitality by the Union of Palestinian Writers, many of whose members were probably there as exiles themselves. Curious may be this: Why were the PLO so invested in a multi-lingual journal of Afro-Asian writings, extending in-house resources to revive it? And what made Faiz leave Lahore — at the age of 67 no less — to set up base in the midst of it? Though the worst may not have happened yet, the Lebanese Civil War was well underway by then. The year was 1978. The relocation of the Afro-Asian Writers Association from Cairo to Beirut had implications for the development of Lotus. This presentation will briefly consider the editorial shift for the change it brought in the articulation of the role of the intellectual in colonial and neocolonial contexts.
Kodwo Eshun - The Complexities and Contradictions of Magazine Diplomacy as Practiced by Transition Magazine
Under the editorship of Rajat Neogy, Transition magazine deployed a complexly constituted form of magazine diplomacy that sought to intervene in the cultural politics of East Africa and beyond throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Examining specific moments in its trajectory allows us to understand distinct phases in Transition’s singular engagement in the uneven and combined decolonisations of the era.
Panel discussion with: Denis Ekpo, Clare Davies, Nida Ghouse, Kodwo Eshun, Jihan El-Tahri, Annett Busch and Anselm Franke
chaired by: Katarzyna Bojarska
Katarzyna Bojarska is an assistant professor in the Institute of Literary Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences, in the Department of Late Modernity Literature and Culture. She has authored articles and completed translations of works focused on the relationship between art, literature, history and psychoanalysis. She has translated among others Susan Buck-Morss’ Hegel, Haiti and Universal History (Warsaw 2014) and is the author of Wydarzenia po Wydarzeniu: Białoszewski – Richter – Spiegelman [Events after the Event: Białoszewski – Richter – Spiegelman] (Warsaw 2012).
Annett Busch works as a freelance curator, writer and translator. She was an editor for SPEX – magazine for pop-culture (1997-2002) and co-edited the book Ousmane Sembene – Interviews for the University Press of Mississippi. She co-curated (with Florian Schneider) “Of a people who are missing” an exhibition and ciné-club on films by Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub in Extra City Kunsthal, Antwerp, 2009. Together with Anselm Franke she co-curated the exhibition “After Year Zero” in the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (House of World Cultures), Berlin, 2013. Currently she works at the Trondheim Academy of Fine Art/NTNU on the research project “Electronic Textures,” which revisits twentieth-century modernism by reading through vanguard Pan-African, transcultural and international magazines.
Clare Davies received a PhD from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University in 2014 for a dissertation entitled Modern Egyptian Art: Site, Commodity, Archive, 1891-1948. She is the recipient of the inaugural Irmgard Coninx Prize in Transregional Studies, Forum Transregionale Studien, Berlin. In Fall 2015, she will join the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York as Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art from the Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey.
Denis Ekpo is Professor of Comparative Literature and Director of the Comparative Literature Program, University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria; a cultural theorist who developed the concept of Post-Africanism; member advisory board of Third Text from 2004 to 2012; a guest editor of Third Text’s special issue Beyond Négritude; the author of two books namely, Neither Anti-imperialist Anger nor the Tears of the Good White Man, and La Philosophie et littérature africaine. He is currently working on a Manifesto for a Post-African art.
Jihan El-Tahri, an Egyptian and French national, started her working career as a journalist. Between 1984 and 1990 she worked as a news agency correspondent and TV researcher covering Middle East politics. In 1990 she began directing and producing documentaries for French television, the BBC, PBS and other international broadcasters. Since then she has directed more than a dozen films including the Emmy nominated The House of Saud, which explores the Saudi/US relations through the portraits of the Kingdom’s monarchs. The Price of Aid, which won the European Media prize in 2004, examined who really benefits from the system of International Food Aid. Cuba: An African Odyssey, which recounts the untold story of Cuba’s support for African revolutions, has received multiple International awards. Her most recent feature documentary Behind the Rainbow, which examines the transitional process in South Africa, has been released in 2009 and has since won various prizes. She is currently finalizing a 3-hour documentary provisionally titled Egypt’s Modern Pharaohs. El-Tahri has also written two books, The 9 Lives of Yasser Arafat and Israel and the Arabs: the 50 Years War published by Penguin. Jihan El-Tahri is also engaged in various associations and institutions working with African cinema. She has served as treasurer of the Guild of African Filmmakers in the Diaspora, Regional Secretary of the Federation of Pan African Cinema (FEPACI) and as an Advisor on Focus Feature’s Africa first Program. She is currently a Mentor at the Documentary Campus.
Kodwo Eshun is an artist and theorist. As co-founder of The Otolith Group, his work has been presented in solo exhibitions at Casco, Office for Art, Design and Theory, Utrecht, Museu Serralves, Porto and Bergen Kunsthall and group exhibitions at Museum of Modern Art, New York, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin and dOCUMENTA (13). He is the author of Dan Graham: Rock My Religion (2012) and More Brilliant than the Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction (1998) and co-editor of WORLD 3 (2014), The Militant Image: A Cine Geography: Third Text 108: (2011), Harun Farocki: Against What? Against Whom? (2009), A Long Time Between Suns (2009) and The Ghosts of Songs: The Film Art of the Black Audio Film Collective (2007). Eshun is Lecturer in Aural and Visual Cultures at the Department of Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths, University of London.
Anselm Franke is Head of Visual Art and Film at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin where he developed, among others, the exhibitions “The Whole Earth” (co-curated with Diedrich Diederichsen), “After Year Zero” (co-curated with Annett Busch) and “Ape Culture” (co-curated with Hila Peleg). He curated the 2014 Shanghai Biennial titled “Social Factory” and the 2012 Taipei Biennial, titled “Modern Monsters, Death and Life of Fiction.” His critically acclaimed exhibition “Animism” has been traveling worldwide since its inception in 2010 and meanwhile has been shown in Antwerp, Bern, Vienna, Berlin, New York, Shenzhen, Seoul and Beirut. Franke was artistic director of Extra City Kunsthal in Antwerp from 2006 to 2010.
Nida Ghouse is a writer and curator. Her on-going projects include “Emotional Architecture” and “Acoustic Matters”. She is presently the director of Mumbai Art Room.